Vail Relationships column: The fear of being close is actually a fear of being rejected
Dear Neil: In my current five-year relationship, my lady has run away and come back to me numerous times, and she has had an affair on me, as well. Sometimes when she runs away, I hear nothing for a few weeks. It appears she couldn’t care less about the pain all of this causes me — being shut out without explanation — and never knowing if this is the end.
I have gone through hell fighting for her, and I have helped her improve her lot in life substantially. But I can’t take the pain of repeated rejections any longer, so I must now put myself first and end our relationship. I love her, but I must stop this madness.
Fed Up in Worcestershire, England
Dear Neil: I am a runner. I have run away from numerous relationships. The best advice I can offer someone who is in a relationship with a runner is this: Every single time I have felt the urge to run or pull away from someone, inside I was hoping to hear: “I’m not going anywhere.” As crazy as this sounds, I know how difficult I am to love, and I need confirmation that you will still love me — and reassure me that you’re not going to abandon me. When I get this reassurance, I try harder. Hope this helps.
A Runner in Washington, DC
Dear Fed Up and Runner: The fear of being rejected, controlled, misused, abused, betrayed or found to be inadequate or unlovable is very powerful. These fears clearly sabotage many loving and intimate relationships.
How do you allow yourself to feel emotionally open to someone else without running away or pushing him or her away? Clearly the need for reassurance is strong, as the second letter illustrates. But as the first letter also makes clear, it becomes increasingly harder to reassure someone who continues to push away from you or who is hurtful toward you.
The fear of being close is actually a fear of being rejected or judged inadequate. That’s one of the main reasons why people run away from a loving relationship. If I am so afraid of being rejected that I can’t let you get very close to me, then the only effective way of overcoming this issue is for me to confront my fears. Perhaps I feel unlovable or damaged. Maybe I feel inadequate, insecure or that I don’t measure up. Possibly I did not grow up with parents who knew how to give love, and I therefore never felt lovable and I didn’t learn how to love.
Whatever my reasons, I will sabotage all of my intimate relationships unless I address and resolve my fears and unless I consistently offer a loving partner the very best of who I am.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 25th year of publication. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website at http://www.neil rosenthal.com. The second edition of his book “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating A Vital Relationship” recently hit the No. 1 best-seller list on Amazon its first day of release, both nationally and internationally.